Kunsthaus Baselland is the venue for the first solo show of French artist Bruno Perramant staged in Switzerland. Perramant, who is currently on a scholarship at Villa Medici in Rome, was born in 1962 in Brest and lives in Paris and in Brittany.
Bruno Perramant is an artist who has remained fully committed to painting, his artistic language of choice, regardless of all the predictions of the demise and resurrection of this mode of expression. He considers the medium of painting as crucial, and sees it on an equal footing with all other artistic disciplines. His paintings harbor a wide variety of figurative motifs, complemented by abstract pictorial creations. He blends different painting styles with images taken from films, his own photographs, and quotations from art history. Perramant’s art involves an interaction with the classical genres of figurative painting such as portraits, landscapes, and still-lifes but infuses them with his awareness of the complexity and ambivalence emanating from the reality of pictures, especially those produced by the medium of films. “In their soft modulation consistently gushing forth, Perramant’s paintings reflect the instability of media imagery, without, however, being reduced to experiencing their evanescence, their transience, or their suddenness. The potential of their transformation lies not in the allusion to the brittleness of reality, but in the suggestion of its various states. They harbor their own metamorphosis; rather than suppressing change, they keep it alive as a memory of other potentialities.” (Rolf Hengesbach)
This exhibition entitled Quoi? raises the question of What?, both with regards to motifs and artistic work in general. Featuring very recent paintings created in Rome and works presented at two previous shows — Re.noir (Galerie InSitu, Fabienne Leclerc, Paris, 2004) and Dar(k)stellung (Galerie Rolf Hengesbach, Cologne, 2005) — it is a rearrangement of sorts, eliciting questions that pertain to the appropriate format and presentation of artworks. Quoi? allows Perramant, whose paintings are mostly diptychs and polyptychs, to explore multiple referential systems — both from the world of cinema and the realm of texts — turning the show into a forum for elucidating questions as well as an unprecedented juxtaposition of referential systems.
His series of works entitled Rigodon (2006), for example, is made up of twelve individual tableaux whose black background displays a tongue-in-cheek rendition of a danse macabre performed by a skeleton. Wielding a conductor’s baton in their bony hands, these skeletons show steps and moves that are more reminiscent of Fred Astaire’s inspired dancing than of death. Thanks to their peculiar humor, the notion of death loses its tragedy, and morphs into a symbol of liveliness, joy, and happiness.
In Perramant’s diptych Sphères (2006) we see what may be the entrance area of a traditional and elegant corporate building, as well as another motif: parts of the eyes and nose of an unknown being. The blackness of the pupil reflects the mullion and transom of a window as well as an illuminated lampshade. Everything seems to suggest that this being watches a house. The way the pictures are combined implies something ominous, something evil and imminent. The diptych evokes a film sequence, to be interpreted differently depending on the viewer. The only common emotion that lingers on is that of foreboding and suspense.
Several of the paintings created by Perramant last year address the simultaneity of existence and non-existence, or reality and surreality. Modeled on the film La règle du jeu by Jean Renoir which features, among other things, dancing phantoms and skeletons, he did a number of paintings that delve into both subjects, ranging from humanoid phantoms reminiscent of film figures to covered sculptures and buildings that, on account of their being enveloped, also mutate into phantoms.
The close links to film in Perramant’s oeuvre are illustrated by the way his polyptychs are arranged, as well as by paintings whose cutouts present putative subtitles. Quoi? is a case in point — a subtitle merging the paintings with the exhibition. The question What? targets the events unfolding in the pictures and also establishes connections between viewers and their reactions to the artworks.
Text by Sabine Schaschl